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People in Film | Gus Van Sant

Updated May 26, 2010

Gus Van Sant | An American Filmmaker
Gus Van Sant | An Artist as a Young Man
Gus Van Sant | Cinema of the Streets
Gus Van Sant | A Move to the Mainstream
Gus Van Sant | A Return to Minimalism
Gus Van Sant | Portland Poet
Gus Van Sant |  A Filmmaker with a Personal Perspective
Gus Van Sant | An American Filmmaker

Gus Van Sant | An American Filmmaker

Co-written by Matt Damon and John Krasinksi, PROMISED LAND tells the story of a small American town struggling with itself, being offered hard cash for drilling rights by a natural gas rep and his assistant (played by Matt Damon and Frances McDormand) while, at the same time, being challenged to do better by a mysterious eco-activist (John Krasinski), who suddenly appears in town. For Gus Van Sant, who over the last few decades has focused on unique and powerful, often untold, American stories, the subject matter was very attractive. “America is a big place and we are all part of it, so it’s hard to really get a grasp on our identity sometimes," Van Sant commented, “What I loved about John and Matt’s screenplay is that they tackled big issues but with a lot of humor and humility. It’s a story about real people, with all their foibles as well as their greatness.” Understanding perfectly the wondrous imperfection of his characters defines Van Sant’s filmmaker, as does the way such imperfect people come together to form friendships, relationships and communities. In his filmmaking, Van Sant not only showcases new talent that he wants to share – like, for example, his use of songs by the band Milk Carton Kids in PROMISED LAND –– but also creates a community of creative people he continually works with. PROMSIED LAND reunites him, for example, with Matt Damon, with whom he’d previously directed in Good Will Hunting and collaborated with on Gerry. “When you work together you become friends and you wonder what else you can do together again and Matt and I became friends,” Van Sant told Movieline. If Van Sant often returns to the need for community in America, as he does so poignantly in PROMISED LAND, one suspects that he recreates that community in the cast and crew he works with on each film.




Mark Ruffalo

Updated May 24, 2010

FilmInFocus takes a closer look at one of the stars of The Kids Are All Right, Mark Ruffalo.

A Classic Sensibility
Theater Thespian
A Star with Range
A Director's Actor, An Actor's Director
Good With Kids
A Classic Sensibility

A Classic Sensibility

Ten years ago, The Kids Are All Right star Mark Ruffalo exploded onto the American independent movie scene with his remarkable performance as Laura Linney’s damaged brother Terry in writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s poignant drama You Can Count on Me (2000). Critics were immediately placed Ruffalo in a great tradition of American screen actors. Variety’s Emanuel Levy said that “Ruffalo's part brings to mind the outsiders played by Marlon Brando, Burt Lancaster and William Holden,” while Stephen Holden of the New York Times said that “Mr. Ruffalo's star-making performance deserves to be added to the list of charismatic, grownup lost boys that includes the Marlon Brando of A Streetcar Named Desire and the Jack Nicholson of Easy Rider.” Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers also drew lofty comparisons, writing that “stage actor Ruffalo scores a breakthrough, giving his role an intimate intensity that bears comparison to early Brando and the late James Dean.”




Movie City: Cannes

Updated May 19, 2010

Cannes | Bright Sun and Dark Rooms
Cannes | A French Resort for British Elite
Cannes | A Sunny Home for Shady Types
Cannes | A Film Festival for Anti-Fascists
Cannes | A Town of and in the Movies
Cannes | A Hard Working Vacation Spot
Cannes | Bright Sun and Dark Rooms

Cannes | Bright Sun and Dark Rooms

Cannes, nestled comfortably on France’s Côte d'azur, with wooded hills to its back and the blue Mediterranean Sea before it, provides its resident population of 70,000 a strikingly beautiful home. In the 19th century, Lady Margaret Brewster described her impressions: “the sea so exquisitely blue—the sky so bright and cloudless—the rich sun upon the gleaming white houses so lovely….Cannes is the loveliest of all lovely places.”  And yet Cannes is most famous being the place people come to sit in dark rooms. During May, its population balloons to over double as the world film community descends, black tie in hand, for the Cannes Film Festival.  For Focus Features, Cannes remains an essential date on the film calendar, whether it is to screen films in competition, like Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock in 2009, or to sell films at the film market. Each Focus Features International unveils a remarkable slate of finished and in-production films to offer global markets.




The Comedy of Marriage

Updated May 17, 2010

In anticipation of the release of Lisa Cholodenko’s comedy The Kids Are All Right, FilmInFocus’ Peter Bowen and Nick Dawson look at works across multiple mediums that also poke fun at the institution of marriage.

Slide 1: The Country Wife (1675)
Slide 2: The Marriage of Figaro (1786)
Slide 3: Blondie (1930)
Slide 4: The Thin Man (1934)
Slide 5: My Favorite Wife (1940)
Slide 6: Unfaithfully Yours (1948)
Slide 7: Adam's Rib (1949)
Slide 8: We’re Not Married! (1952)
Slide 9: The Honeymooners (1955)
Slide 10: Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960)
Slide 11: The Lockhorns (1968)
Slide 12: La Cage aux Folles (1973)
Slide 13: Seems Like Old Times (1980)
Slide 14: Roseanne (1988)
Slide 15: The War of the Roses (1989)
Slide 16: Frankie & Johnny Are Married (2003)
Slide 17: It’s All Relative (2005)


Writer-director Lisa Cholodenko’s comedy The Kids Are All Right tells the story of a lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), whose two teenage children contact their sperm-donor birth father (Mark Ruffalo) and, as they say in the business, hilarity ensues. Part of the fun is how Cholodenko mines marriage for all its comic potential: “Go easy on the wine, hon, it’s daytime,” says Moore to Bening, who shoots back, “OK, same goes for the micromanaging.” So what’s so funny about marriage? It turns out the better question is what isn’t. The following slideshow looks at this funny institution in Mozart’s 18th century The Marriage of Figaro and Wycherly’s Restoration comedy The Country Wife, as well as films (like The Thin Man and Frankie & Johnny Are Married), TV shows (from The Honeymooners to It’s All Relative) and even comic strips (Blondie).




Bruno Coulais

Updated May 13, 2010

Meet the man who wrote the music for the Focus Features movies Babies and Coraline.

The Conservatory
The Cesars
Instruments and Coraline
The Conservatory

The Conservatory

The Paris-born composer Bruno Coulais got his start where most serious modern composers begin: in the conservatory. Studying violin and piano, Coulais expected to become a composer of 20th century classical music, following the path of such inspirations as Stravinsky and Ligeti. But he was detoured out of music school by a film director, Francois Reichenbach, who asked him to score a film about Mexico. Film music is often looked down upon by so-called “serious composers,” and Coulais initially shared that disdain. “I didn’t want to do that – for me, music had to be very pure,” he said. “But when I tried to do a bit of music for him, I discovered the pleasure of writing for pictures, and after I never stopped.”




The ABCs of Babies

Updated May 13, 2010

Babies may be universal, but the way that society and culture has viewed the little darlings has changed through history.

Slide 1: A is For Awesome
Slide 2: B is for Babies
Slide 3: C is for Confusion
Slide 4: D is for Damned
Slide 5: D is for Discipline
Slide 6: F is for Faith
Slide 7: G is for God
Slide 8: I is for Infanticide
Slide 9: J is for Jail
Slide 10: O is for Organism
Slide 11: E is for Environment
Slide 12: M is for Milk
Slide 13: N is for Nursing
Slide 14: P is for Philosophical
Slide 15: R is for Remarkable
Slide 16: S is for Software
Slide 17: V is for Values
Slide 18: W is for Writer
Slide 1: A is For Awesome

Slide 1: A is For Awesome

Bayar (on the steppes of Mongolia), Hattie (the streets of San Francisco), Mari (the bustle of Tokyo) and Ponijao, shown above, (from the Himba tribal lands in northern Namibia) are the four child stars of the documentary Babies. They help us realize both the singularity of the cultures that shapes each of our lives and the universality of the human condition. It’s nature … and it’s nurture.




Annette Bening

Updated May 11, 2010

Annette Bening is an American Actress
Annette Bening is a Professional
Annette Bening is "A Terrific Combination"
Annette Bening is Tough as Nails
Annette Bening Is Funny As Hell
Annette Bening is an American Actress

Annette Bening is an American Actress

Annette Bening may have moved a far distance from her birthplace in Topeka, Kansas, but her characters still contain that non-nonsense straight-talking common sense that is all American. Indeed Nic, the character she plays in Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, shines with American self-reliance and self- confidence. A doctor by profession, Nic is the main breadwinner for her partner Jules (Julianne Moore) and their two kids, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), and is involved (perhaps too much so) in every aspect of her family’s health and well-being. Bening’s own parents were perhaps less in touch with their daughter’s dreams. As Bening recently told Angeleno Magazine, “They never went to movies or talked about show business….I remember when I started doing plays…they would call and ask, ‘What are you doing now?’ I’d say, ‘Tartuffe in San Francisco.’ They’d say, ‘Oh, that’s nice, dear.’”




Mia Wasikowska

Updated May 06, 2010

Mia Wasikowska, one of the stars of Focus Features’ The Kids Are All Right, is one of the most exciting emerging actresses of the moment.

Mia Wasikowska is Everywhere
From Dance to Film
In Treatment
Down the Rabbit Hole
The Future of Mia
Mia Wasikowska is Everywhere

Mia Wasikowska is Everywhere

Just one year ago, only the savviest talent spotters would have recognized the name “Mia Wasikowska” among a list of up-and-coming actresses. But having previously appeared in several shorts, television programs and indie features, Wasikowska suddenly is everywhere. She stars as Alice in Tim Burton’s worldwide hit, Alice in Wonderland; was nominated as one of MTV’s 2010 “Best Female Breakout Stars”; plays a lead role in Gus Van Sant’s upcoming Restless; made the cover of Vanity Fair; headlines as another titular heroine in Cary Fukunaga’s upcoming Jane Eyre; and plays the pivotal role of Joni — so named by her lesbian parents after Joni Mitchell — in Lisa Cholodenko’s Focus Features release, The Kids are All Right. And all that before she turns 21. Indeed, Wasikowska’s rapid fame has even caught her by surprise — “It feels really weird seeing me on a movie poster,” she told The Guardian.




Movie City | Tokyo, Japan

Updated May 04, 2010

Tokyo | City of History
Tokyo | City of Visitors
Tokyo | City of Cinemagoing
Tokyo | City of Festivals
Tokyo | City of Studios
Tokyo | City of History

Tokyo | City of History

Andy Warhol once said, “The most beautiful thing in Tokyo is McDonald's,” but then Warhol had a penchant for saying the unexpected (and apparently really liked McDonald’s). Tokyo, of course, is one of the great metropolitan centers of the world, a vibrant, bustling capital city that is one of the three global financial strongholds, along with New York and London. Originally a humble fishing village known as “Edo” (meaning “estuary,” because it sits in Tokyo Bay), it grew into a military stronghold and the country’s de facto capital, changing its name to Tokyo (meaning “Eastern capital”) when it became Japan’s Imperial capital in 1868.